The cheering tittered through the crowd, cutting off the introductory speaker, and throngs of people pushed to the aisle to just to get a glance at the man entering the room. He’s the other famous Canadian Justin. And he’s the newest candidate running for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Justin Trudeau’s visit to Hamilton on Oct. 10 was one in a series of meet and greets the leadership candidate has been doing since he officially announced his candidacy on Oct. 2.
Approximately 600 people came out for the event. It was held at the Sheraton Hotel and was organized my recent McMaster graduate Elyse Banham, a former member of the McMaster Young Liberal Association.
The meet and greet appeared to be comprised mainly of baby boomers, and the majority of the youth in attendance appeared to be affiliated with the Young Liberal Association. Well known Hamilton Liberal MPs, Beth Phinney and Judy Marsales, also attended.
The event was intended to be a rally for current Liberal party supporters, but also aimed to familiarize Hamiltonians with Trudeau’s campaign platforms.
Trudeau was introduced by former Liberal MPP Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain). Bountrogianni described Trudeau as “a breath of fresh air to the political scene in Canada.”
She also commented on how his youth and experience better readied him to understand the crisis in youth “mal-employment,” given that one out of five 25-29-year-olds make less than half the median income in Canada.
Although youthful energy and passion have been championed as core values of the Trudeau campaign from the beginning, his speech, while charismatically delivered, fell short of addressing youth concerns.
Instead, it focused on the general agenda Trudeau has been presenting so far during his Canadian city tour. He discussed the implications of partisanship, criticizing both the Conservative party and the NDP for polarizing regions against each other, and for promoting ideologies which “micro-categorize” electoral issues.
Trudeau emphasized his determination to not engage in regionalism, pitting one region’s interest above others. This issue proved to be a lynch pin for Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, who has often been accused of polarizing Alberta and the West from the rest of Canada.
The content of the speech appeared to mimic the previous speeches delivered in early stops in Burlington and Mississauga. Despite the similarity of the speech to the many others Trudeau has delivered in the past few weeks, the trademark Trudeau charisma shone through, as evidenced by the shouts, cheers and applause which erupted and overpowered his speech at times.
Trudeau took time to personally appeal to Hamiltonians and addressed issues unique to Hamilton.
“Hamilton is a city with a tremendous heart. It’s been through some tough times and some great times. It’s transformed itself from a manufacturing hub to being a research and knowledge economy hub.”
Matthew Ing, a fifth-year Arts and Science student and member of the McMaster Young Liberals volunteered at the event. He explained that meet and greet was purposely not a fundraiser.
“A fundraiser brings certain groups of people…those who can afford to attend. To have as many people there and overcome regional divides, [the campaign] aimed to reach out to all Hamiltonians and make it an accessible event.”
In addition to being the MP for the Papineau riding in Montreal, Trudeau is the Liberal party’s critic for youth, post-secondary education, and amateur sport. Ing explained that Trudeau has actively sought out youth input and consultation in his campaign.
“The current government has no policy for tackling the [high] youth unemployment rate…you can rest assured that youth will be at the forefront of any issue Justin addresses.”
Trudeau concluded his speech by lamenting the recent decline of the Liberal party, which won only 35 seats in the last federal election and lost its title of Official Opposition Party.
The campaign has focused on branding Trudeau as the product of a new post-partisan generation of politicians. He has strongly distanced himself from the superior and entitled attitudes that he implied have been historically present in the Liberal party.
Instead, he advocated for a new party, which viewed Canadian interests as a whole, and aimed to speak for and listen to all Canadians.
“Hard work and heart, of the type that has always characterized Hamilton, for example, is the only thing that is going to get the Liberal Party to move forward once again, it’s the only thing that is going to get Canada to move forward once again.”